tv MSNBC Live With Alex Witt MSNBC October 21, 2017 6:00am-7:00am PDT
i'm alex witt in new york. here's what's happening right now. massive intelligence failure. that's how the attack in niger that left four soldiers dead is being described by a senior congressional aide. now the fbi is getting involved. a political battle with a florida congresswoman. a new call to put the controversy to rest. gain momentum and getting back to the business of the country. the chances tax reform could get done by the end of this year. beginning with this. a military family in mourning today. in about two hours from now, a funeral service will begin for staff sergeant ladavid johnson. this as the controversy surrounding president trump's call to his grieving widow escalates. president trump tweeting just this morning, i hope the fake news media keeps talking about wacky congresswoman wilson and that she as a representative is killing the democratic party. meanwhile, the "washington post" editorial board is calling on
kelly to apologize to wilson for getting his facts wrong about her comments two years ago. at an fbi building now, here's the ceremony video that's now surfaced. reports in the wake of the niger ambush. we begin with maya where that funeral service for sergeant la david johnson is taking place. maya, with a good morning to you, walk us through what's happening today. >> yes, alex, there's been off and on rain here. it's matching the very somber mood we have in cooper city as mourners are preparing to honor sergeant ladavid johnson. he was from very nearby here. his body just about a half hour ago arrived here at the church. earlier this week they brought his casket back on a commercial airliner, a delta airline flight brought his body back. his family was there on the tarmac. it was a very emotional scene understandably so. of course, they are mourning and they are suffering just so much.
now, they are expecting a large turnout here. as you mentioned briefly of course sergeant johnson has now become part of this political spat that is going on between the white house and congresswoman fredricka wilson. in the meantime, here in florida, the governor has ordered flags at half-staff. here's what the governor had to say about sergeant johnson. he said, ann and i join floridians across the state in honoring the lives of u.s. army sergeant ladavid t. johnson and the other three u.s. soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. we will never forget their heroic actions and our hearts break for their families and loved ones. we will continue to pray for the safety of all of our brave military members across our country and abroad. now, as you know, sergeant johnson left behind a widow who is currently six months pregnant, along with two young children. now, he was a member of the 5,000 role models of excellence. that's an organization here that
mentors young minority men. they have set up a scholarship fund for sergeant johnson's children. they're hoping to raise the million dollars. so far, they've raised more than $600,000. alex. >> all right, a very difficult morning there in cooper city, florida. thank you very much, maya rodriguez. now to nbc's kelly o'donnell at the white house for us. all this controversy surrounding the president's phone call with the widow of sergeant ladavid johnson. the political firestorm surrounding that call seems to only be growing so what is the latest? >> it has really held on. it's almost in its own universe, sen rat from the pain the family is going through, especially today, on the day of his memorial. in the political realm, even today, the president tweeting criticism of the florida congresswoman, keeping this going, saying that the media keeps talking about it. in part, because the white house continues to add new elements to this debate over what the president did.
the words he used. what is appropriate when it comes to con doleance calls to families of the fallen. and what we've seen play out over several days now has erupted into a spat between the chief of staff and the congresswoman. a controversy president trump says he did not expect. >> i was very surprised to see this, to be honest with you. >> reporter: in a new fox business interview to air sunday, president trump defended himself and chief of staff general john kelly over the handling of a condolence call to the family of fallen army sergeant ladavid johnson. >> he was so offended, because he was in the room when i made the call. >> reporter: general kelly argued it was not appropriate for florida congresswoman fredricka wilson, a johnson family friend, to listen in on the president's phone call and then to criticize trump's words. >> he actually couldn't believe it. actually, he said to me, sir, this is not acceptable. this is really not.
he knew i was so nice. >> reporter: kelly, who lost his son robert in afghanistan, made an inaccurate charge against wilson thursday, accusing her of self-promoting at a 2015 fbi building dedication. >> talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building. >> reporter: but wilson had not boasted about funding. she talked about getting rushed approval to name the building after fbi agents killed on duty. >> i went to the speaker, speaker boehner, and i said, mr. speaker, i need your help. the fbi needs your help. >> reporter: president trump called wilson wacky in a tweet. and the press secretary pushed back at reporters who cited kelly's false claim. >> if you want to go after general kelly, that's up to you, but i think that that -- if you want to get into a debate with a four star marine general, i think that that's something highly inappropriate. >> reporter: sarah sanders later backed off that criticism, saying in a statement, of
course, everyone can be questioned. and that questioning refers to john kelly, now a civil servant, a political figure as the chief of staff, not in his capacity as a gold star father and former retired marine general. but sanders said his credibility should not be impugned because of his personal experienced dealing with how you handle the notification of families and how you deal with the process when american soldiers are killed in action. so this has been a sensitive topic. it has also been fraught with some of the typical political spats we have seen play out. and president trump again adding to it today, by tweeting about the congresswoman who was not only a representative in florida but a family friend for a long time of sergeant johnson and his family. alex. >> and all this playing out while that funeral's about to get under way in just a couple hours. kelly, i want to ask you about a tweet from the president that happened about 30 minutes ago.
subject to receipt of further information, i will be allowing, as president, the long blocked and classified jfk files to be opened. what can you tell us about this? >> well, this is very interesting. we know that president trump has sometimes engaged in some conspiracy talk about the jfk assassination. it has nothing to do with that. what this deals with is a 1992, congress passed a law keeping some remaining files, about 3,000 pages, classified, under seal at the national archives. they set a deadline of october 26, 2017, for whomever was president to have to make a decision about whether those files should be made public. there have been lots of questions of the trump administration, which way would they go. with that tweet, the president says barring any specific new information, it's his intention to give the green light to the national archives to release these documents. this is cia files, fbi files, all the materials going back to 1963 and the investigation of
president kennedy's assassination in dallas, the anniversary of that is coming up. but president trump faced a deadline to make his decision public. that's what that tweet is about today. for historians and researchers, it will be interesting new information. but at the same time, historians don't expect there will be a surprise in those files. but they will be available publicly for the first time through the national archives. so it's the enduring mystery of the death of president kennedy, now comes back in the trump era with a new decision. alex. >> guaranteed we're going to be talking about that in the future. all right, kelly o'donnell, thank you so much. for more analysis, let's bring in the congressional reporter at the hill. and phillip wagman, writer for the washington examiner. gentlemen, good morning. mike, i'll start with you. president trump ramping up his attacks against congresswoman wilson just this morning. wasn't today, the day of sergeant johnson's funeral, an opportunity for the president and the white house to just correct its missteps? >> well, you know, this is not a
president or a white house that apologizes for things. it doesn't admit mistakes. that's consistent here even despite the sensitivity of this topic. you know, and this goes much deeper than just talking about a gold star, you know, father in john kelly. it goes deeper than this being, you know, a fallen soldier here. we're talking about deeper implications of race. and that's why federica wilson is getting into this. trump came in, remember, from the very first day, the congress am black cause had boycotted the inauguration of president trump. they thought he was insensitive. they felt he was bringing white nationalists into the white house. that tension has certainly not gone away. it is simmering for months and months and months. we saw in charlottesville after the white supremist rallies there. we're seeing it with the nfl kneeling. more recently, the congressional black caucus said we're not even going to meet with the president anymore. this all goes much deeper than
just this very sad incident. this goes back many months and the tensions aren't going to go away. it's no coincidence it's members of the congressional black caucus leading the impeachment push on capitol hill. >> that's the big picture there. meantime, phillip, the white house is backtracking after suggesting that general kelly is above reproach. releasing this statement last night. of course, everyone can be questioned. after witnessing general kelly's heartfelt and somber account, we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heros is not appropriate. this last part is not what critics are pointing to. they just want general kelly and the white house to acknowledge he got his facts wrong about congressman wilson and the comments at the fbi building ceremony. what is the consensus the event this week will have on the white house's credibility overall? >> the white house definitely found an operator in general kelly. they needed someone who was going to help them in this sort of cultural war firefight.
as a retired marine general who is also a gold star father, he's the perfect person to speak on this. he did err in his evaluation of wilson. i think if the white house took a step back. if they admitted that in their attack on representative, that they erred in this area, that would lend decent credibility. but they see that general kelly has gotten them out of a tight spot. i think the tendency here from the white house is not to want to give an inch at all. >> but doesn't that just keep the furor going? >> absolutely. this morning with the tweet you were talking about just a second ago, this is just -- this is too much on the day that that family is grieving. we are going back and forth with this petty debating on both sides. a few days ago, representative wilson was bragging to local press that this controversy had made her a rock star. those are her words. and they have no place in this
debate. i think there should be leadership on both sides. general kelly should admit he made a mistake. williams shop stop using this to advance her own profile. trump should let the issue be done. >> what happened yesterday when mattis met with mccain after he threatened to subpoena the white house with information he believes they have. this is also coming on the heels of critics calling niger president trump's benghazi. what are you hearing about any congressional investigations, mike? >> well, i think they're coming. these aren't issues that can easily be ignored. you know, these are certainly not the types of issues that speaker paul ryan and senate majority leader mcconnell want to be dealing with. they want to be dealing with tax reform and this is all a distraction. you know, and it's not just mccain and mattis, it's not just niger. it's the ongoing russia investigation. it's newly opened investigations
into personal e-mails in the white house. travel by cabinet members after tom price's resignation for using private jets. i mean, this is an ongoing theme. you know, the pressure is going to be on republican chair, you know, chairman and majority leader mitch mcconnell not to do anything. if the headlines keep turning and mccain keeps pushing, they might have to do something after all. we'll have to wait and see on that particular issue. but, you know, the theme here is that this is a distraction at a time the republicans really want to do tax reform and it's not helping their cause. >> all right, i'm a bit out of time so i'll have you both back and we'll discuss things further, thank you. understanding what happened to four green berets in niger. what a member of the foreign affairs committee can share with us. are? i'm open to that. lower premiums? extra benefits? it's open enrollment. time to open the laptop... ...and compare medicare health plans. why? because plans change, so can your health needs.
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he was so offended, because he was in the room when i made the call and so were other people. and the call was a very nice call. he was so offended that a woman would be -- that somebody would be listening to that call. >> president trump in a new interview standing by chief of staff john kelly for his comments about congresswoman wilson. the president also taking to twitter to ramp up his attacks against the florida lawmaker. these new development, as family and friends of sergeant johnson are getting ready for his funeral to pay their final respects. his casket there arriving at the church. joining m ining me now, congres fromful, a member of the foreign affairs committee. i want to start first with that tweet, sir. won't you agree that the optics do not look good on this very morning their family is laying their loved one to rest? >> well, i think that this
discussion is serving a lot of interests. mrs. wilson has said many things. i think kelly's credibility is so unimpeachable. i didn't hear the context of the call so i really can't say, you know, if it looks different in writing than it did in words. what's really important is this tragic loss of life of what sounds like a stellar young man and three others need to -- we need to focus on what's going on in africa. i remember back in 2005 talking with mrs. bush and pope benedict about the expansion of the radical madrassas in this part of africa. and look what we have now. boko haram and this brutal asymmetrical attack on our people. >> you're right, certainly having a policy, a structured policy on africa going forward is something we need to have. with regard to the details of this incident, you've got "the washington post" calling on general kelly to apologize to congresswoman wilson about getting his facts wrong about
the new fbi building in your state of florida. should he not apologize to take the high road and move on from this? you're the one who says he has an unimpeachable integrity about him. >> i read that article this morning and thought if he got his facts wrong, he probably ought to say i'm sorry, i got my facts wrong on that. no one's right all the time. >> wouldn't that be the end of it? >> i would think so. i mean, no one's perfect in this world. the only perfect people are god. if he made a mistake, he made a mistake. the bottom line is we need to focus on what boko haram and al qaeda and the maghreb are doing in africa and get to the bottom of how this military group had conducted many sorties and how all of a sudden, out of the bleue, we had this tragedy. >> that is being investigated. general mattis met with john mccain after he threatened to speak that the white house for information he believes they have. this is coming on the heels of the critics calling niger
president trump's benghazi. what are the main questions you want answered about the attack and its aftermath? >> i think we've been so distracted we haven't focused enough on what the results of these radical madrassas have brought in africa. when we think of africa, we think more of the lord's ira army in uganda and not what's happening on the western side of sub-saharan africa. i'd like to find out how much al qaeda and isis activity there is. i'd like to find out if any of these governments are complex sit in it. and elevate the profile. i know they're active in nigeria. probably senegal. maybe even cameroon, i don't know. >> notwithstanding the protocol for this investigation, cab you, sir, understand the frustration as a result of the president's silence for 12 days in the wake of this attack and then only taking action after seemingly being pressed publicly to do so? >> well, i can't speak for the
president's decision to speak or not speak. he has a lot of things on his plate. he can always second-guess what he did or did not say. the fact is, we need to investigate what's going on there and make sure we don't put our troops in harm's way. this is like farc in southern colomb colombia. they come out of nowhere. after conducting many raids. all of a sudden. there you go. i think that's a good reminder of the level of threat we face from these guerrilla warriors. >> the colleagues in the senate passed the 4trillion budget bill. what do you say to democrats who are concerned this will drastically change the taxing of retirement funds? >> you know, i've enjoyed debating at the house of representatives with many democrats about economics. and you can't escape the fact that good tax treatment
stimulates capital investment both by individuals and companies and that creates jobs. retirement savings creates jobs. investment and equipment creates jobs. a favorable tax structure will help do that. i'm all for the simplification for individuals and all form reducing the rates for corporations. >> all right. may i also ask you about what happened a little over a week ago since the president decertified the iran nuclear agreement? can you give us an update on where congress is on whether or not to revive it or come up with a new sanctions package for example? >> last week, before we left for this week break, congress passed -- or the house of foreign relations committee passed the sanction bill for any vendor that sells into the cruise missile and ballistic missile program in iraq. i think that's one of the factors we need to take into account. the president mentioned. is not only are we denied inspection of the military bases. so when the atomic energy guy comes out and says yes, everywhere we're inspecting,
they're in compliance. that may well be the case. maybe we can inspect a lot of places where they could be doing something nefarious. then after the deal, they launch ballistic missiles. what kind of good faith is that? >> how do you see this playing out? what do you think is going to happen in congress? >> well, i think as secretary tillerson said, there's several different choices we have. we could decline to certify as an independent act of the president which really doesn't affect what congress may or may not do about sanctions and what the rest of the nations in the world may or may not do about the agreement. but i hope this creates an opportunity for dialogue with france, germany, the other -- uk and other countries about how do we strength than agreement to make sure we get what we need. one of my problems with it is iran gets just enough time to get where it wants to get and we do not get enough time to prevent them from becoming a nuclear power. >> all right, republican congressman from florida, thank you so much. >> thanks. what you don't know about
the story of eric garner and his fatal encounter with new york city police. the author of a new book joins me. before the break, a countdown to the much ballyhooed battle for amazon's new headquarters. about 100 cities were expected to bid on the potential bonanza of 50,000 jobs. moody's provided amazon a ranking of the top contenders and they are, coming in third, philadelphia, atlanta, ranking second, and at number one, austin, texas. we won't know until some time next year if amazon choobss the capital city of texas.
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welcome back, everyone, i'm alex witt here at msnbc world headquarters in new york at 32 minutes past the hour. one month since hurricane maria blasted puerto rico and still more than 80% of the island is without power. 30% has no drinking water. communication is also a big problem with half the cell phone towers not working. and in cooper city, florida, this morn, the family of sargeant la david johnson will be gathering for a final good-bye to the fallen soldier. the fbi has joined the
investigation into what a senior congressional aide says was a massive intelligence failure leading to that deadly ambush in niger. signs that president trump may be suffering russia fatigue. >> excuse me, excuse me. the whole russia thing was an excuse for the democrats losing the election. it's been stated they have no collusion. they ought to get to the end of it because i think the american public is sick of it. joining me now is ann marry mcavoy, former federal prosecutor. the president seemed convinced there was no conclusion. is that a fair conclusion at this stage? do you see an end in sight? >> well, certainly no hard evidence of any collusion has been made public. we don't know what's really going on in the mueller investigation. the independent counsel's office has been pretty tight-lipped. they haven't made any statements as far as what they're finding if anything. they have two grand juries
impanelled. we really haven't heard what they have found, if anything, at this point. >> okay, attorney general jeff sessions told the senate judiciary committee on wednesday that former fbi director james comey's firing was related to his handling of the hillary clinton e-mail investigation which directly contradicts what the president told nbc's lester holt when he said it was about russia. what could be the strategy here with these mixed messages? >> many times i think when people do something, there are numerous reasons why. when you look at the firing of jim comey, there probably were multiple reasons why the president decided to do it. it probably wasn't just one issue. he took everything into consideration and made the decision. but certainly sessions is being talked -- one of the things that's gone wrong obviously, not only do we have mueller's investigation but we have the congressional investigation. so sessions is going to say whatever he knows about what's going on, whatever's allowed to the extent he can say it, given
the fact there is -- there are privilege issues also when sessions testified. >> what about special counsel mueller's team which interviewed former white house communications director sean spicer for several hours on monday? you have politico reporting that spicer was asked about the comey firing. anything for the president's legal team to be concerned about there? >> i think they have to expect that the mueller -- that mueller's team is going to talk to basically everyone who had any contact whatsoever with any of the decisions that were made related to comey's firing and anything relating to russia in anyway. they're all going to be interviewed. so one of the things that was interesting to me is the fact that he wasn't put directly into the grand jury. so this was an interview, it's a little bit more informal. he hasn't certainly been charged with anything. and he hasn't been put into the grand jury yet. he might be still put into the grand jury. but he's being talked to as a
potential witness. it seems to me it's probably a case of they're not quite sure what information he has. whether it would be relevant or use fol to them or not. they probably didn't know until they talked to him. so -- and unfortunately, none of us have heard yet what actually was said during the meeting. >> so political consulting firm fusion gps refused to answer questions from the house intelligence committee about who paid for the christopher steele dossier on candidate trump's connections to the russian government. why is that information important? can they be forced to give it up? >> certainly it is important because it was a fake dossier as we now know. if it was that the russians were involved or that some other international player was involved and that perhaps there were people on political front here in the u.s. who worked with them, that could be very relevant. if -- it may not turn out to be the case. so maybe these guys went out and did this on their own. but the other really interesting
issue relating to this dossier is it apparently may have been the basis for some fisa warrants to investigate some of the folks involved with the trump campaign. so that certainly is also a very relevant issue. and if warrants were based on fake information, who knew that? was there somebody in the government who actually asked them to do up this dossier so they could get a fisa warrant? i mean, those would be very relevant questions of course. so there's a lot of issues and a lot of potential downfall for the group that put this together. so, you know, they could be facing criminal charges if they did this knowingly in order to get a fisa warrant when they weren't entitled to one. >> there's a lot more to come on this. no doubt we'll be speaking with you again. thank you. what are the odds congress will pass a tax cut for americans before the end of this year? joy reid talks to congressman one month after hurricane maria. where are we?
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capitol steps. the next few stages in the republican's $1.5 trillion tax cut effort. the $4 trillion budget plan passed by the senate now goes to the house which has already passed a tax cut bill. the house could, however, just pass the senate blueprint or negotiate a compromised budget. once a budget is passed, the house will then start writing a tax bill and likely will face fierce opposition by the democrats. >> these folks have made reputations for themselves as fiscal hawks. they're fiscal chicken hawks when it comes to tax cuts. they simply don't care about the debt and the deficit unless they can use that to badger obama and other democrats. >> reasons for opposition include the tax policy center analysis that claims 80% of the tax cut would benefit the top 1%. and it could add $1.5 trillion to the bublth deficit over ten years. simultaneously, the tax cut plan could cut medicare funding by
some $470 billion. and medicaid by about $4 trillion. of course a lot could change throughout the process here so we'll keep you advised on that. joining me now, jonathan ator, msnbc political analyst. and cynthia nelson, author of "e pluribus one." big welcome to both of you. you probably saw the tweets just within the last hour. the president saying the budget that passed is a really big deal, especially in terms of what will be the biggest tax cut in u.s. history. mainstream media barely covered. you know, jonathan, paul ryan says the tax code overhaul will include a fourth tax bracket so the wealthiest americans don't get a windfall. what do you make of that idea? do you think congress is capable of making sure this happens? >> in a word, no. because the only thing that the republicans in congress agree on are tax cuts for the rich. you know, this is not a middle class tax cut. it goes overwhelmingly, as we
just saw a moment ago, to upper income people. and there's also no guarantee that this will do anything to create jobs. when president bush tried this, you know, more than ten years ago, it didn't work. it did not create prosperity in the early years of this century. and it hasn't -- it hasn't in the past either. in fact, sometimes when taxes go up, the economy gets better. so trickle down is a failure. the whole premise of the bill is a failure. and we'll see whether democrats and americans who don't want a tax cut for the rich can stop it in the next few weeks. >> sib that he, can you put into perspective the kind of pressure republicans face in trying to get a tax cut bill passed? >> two things. first of all, i disagree with jonathan strongly. i do think that they will get something done because they've had such a failure on the health care front that they cannot end this year or at least the early part of next year without a
significant tax cut for everybody. the middle class has to be the biggest beneficiary. i've known paul for over 20 years. he's a budget man. he's a numbers man. he loves this stuff. if he says they're going to create a fourth bracket that allows the wealthiest americans to at least stay status quo and not get the windfall, while those of us who are working or higher earners, i think that's a good thing. i think they have to get it done, a lex, or they have zero credibility going into the midterms. and if they fail, they're going to take a shellacking in the midterms. >> you're echoing the sentiments of senator graham who pretty much said what you're saying. >> just quickly, i don't disagree that they do need to get something done. i just don't think that they're going to do something for working people at the end of the day. but push something through. >> okay. let's get to the dispute between the white house and congresswoman wilson over the president's condolence call. you've got "the washington post"
saying john kelly owes the congresswoman an apology. do you think he does? >> two thing, full disclaimer, she's a soerrorty sister of min. number two, general kelly, i'm also a fan of, and i'm surprised he would get himself involved in not his remarks about gold star families because that was good. but talking about the congresswoman calling her an empty barrel. and then falsely accusing her of remarks at the fbi. that's beneath the dignity of someone of kelly's staat ttus. >> should he apologize? >> absolutely. and say hey, i got the facts wrong, i was caught up in emotion, this is a big issue, i don't like it, we're messing with military families here. i took it personal. but i misspoke on the facts.
i think we all can forgive him for that and move on. >> if he does that, his popularity will go up. he needs to model behavior for the president. he needs to stay within the kingdom of facts. and a bunch of newspapers now after the orlando sentinel tape of the congresswoman's remarks came out. have editorialized it. he was just wrong on the facts. not maybe wrong, not alternative wrong. facts wrong. he was just wrong. and it's extraordinarily important that we keep the facts in our focus here. especially for him. he needs to indicate that he has not gone all trump on us. and he has not become not just another banana republican who operates as if we're living in some latin american banana republican, we can't have that. >> you heard sarah huckabee sanders say that it was inappropriate to get in any kind of debate with the four star
general kelly. she later dialed that back saying everyone can be questioned. what has this back and forth on the story done for the white house? how should this end? >> well, it's hurt the white house enormously. it hasn't been good for congresswoman wilson either. it's not been good for the republic, alex. four young men gave their lives in niger in battle. we don't know all the details yet. this young man, ladavid johnson. there are some issues surrounding why he was separated, et cetera, so let's deal with that. for the commander in chief who i think made a call with good intentions, but we know trump is inartful in his speech. it's awful. i think he echoed what general kelly told him and he just parodied it and got it wrong and offended the family. it hasn't helped the white house at all. >> i want to ask you about your reaction to two former presidents speaking out on the same day this week. i'm curious, jonathan, if you were surprised certainly by president bush coming out so forcefully. >> i was a little bit surprised because he's been pretty quiet
since, you know, since he left office. but there was no subtlety to these remarks even though he didn't mention president trump by name. the most important part of them i think is when he said that if the -- basically if people at the top act like bullies, that sends a message to families and to children across america. what the president does, the way he comports himself, is extremely important. even aside from policy. and i thought it was an excellent speech by a former president bush. and something that people should pay more attention to. >> do you think it was more powerful that neither president bush or president obama mentioned donald trump by name? did that keep it from getting too divisive? >> absolutely, it's the president's club, but george w. bush's speech was phenomenal. every american should watch it. when he called bigotry and white supremacy blasphemy on the
american spirit, wow, talk about a powerful turn of phrase and so true. so it was excellent and president obama's always excellent in his remarks, he's just a good or rater, so i wasn't surprised by his comments as well. >> thank you so much. i can't breathe. tens of thousands of protesters echoed the last words of a new york man who died during an arrest in 2014. we'll have the author of a new book on eric garner's life and death. what started as a passion... ...has grown into an enterprise.
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so you might think you know all about the eric garner case until you read this book by my next guest. garner's arrest in 2014 was caught on video a few million times. we're not going to play it for you today. but contributing editor at "rolling stone" has written the very beautiful and tragic story "i can't breathe, a killing on bay street." matt, welcome to you. glad to have you in studio. this was a page turner. i told you at the commercial break i started reading it, on
page 5 i had tears streaming down my face. it is incredibly powerful. but you open up what this untold story of brutality by nypd officers on staten island months before garner's fatal encounter. how is that connected to the garner case? >> it was funny one of the first things that i learned when i went out to staten island to ask around is that there had been a case that was fairly similar a few months before and that in that same case a guy had been beaten up by police and had said i can't breathe during the beating. and that he had met garner and told garner that story a few months before garner himself was attacked by police. >> and that is a story that was very, very hard to read. so you paint a picture of garner that we've never seen before. he was a guy who grew up in a community that he didn't have a lot of options. yes, he'd been to jail, but he
was married. six kids. you tell the most just charming story about the time that he met his wife. >> right. yeah. >> she shows up in jeans and a t-shirt or whatever and he's in a full suit. >> yeah, he's all dressed up. i mean, it's funny. this is the reason -- i had never had any intention of writing a book about this subject, but when i went out and started asking people about it, they told me so many stories about the guy and he was complicated, funny, multidimensional, contradictory. and the thing about it is, you know, you tell the story about him dressing up, but later on in his life he would literally let the clothes fall off his body. he was phobic about buying himself things because every dollar that he made went to his kids. >> yeah. >> so he had this sort of character transformation as he got older. he was just fascinating in a lot of different ways. >> he did that, he wanted to provide for his kids the way his mother provided for him. and he didn't grow up in poverty. she worked hard and provided and that's the example that he had.
>> his mother was a hard working woman who had supported him. in fact and some other relatives their whole lives. he didn't grow up wanting, but he married young, he had kids young, didn't have a whole lot of options and got into drug dealing and ended up in jail. and from there you really don't have a whole lot of options once you get out of prison with a drug charge. >> and you catch all the conditions that exist in inner city america. you do it in a lot of your work but this book in particular. the what led garner and countless other young men to positions they are in right now this life of, you know, street hustling, if you will. but you look beyond it. you look at the policies and things that are in place that continue to exist to keep them here. talk about that. >> i think that's one of the main things i was trying to do with this book. you know, when we see these stories and there have been so many of them, right? eric garner, michael grown, freddie gray, sandra bland, the
twitter explode before us for a day or two and we get outraged everybody has a take and then they kind of compartmentalize them and forget about them. but what stands behind all of these incidents is a gigantic bureaucratic political system. it's not a story about bad cops. it's a story about bad politics and bad policy. and there's a huge bureaucracy that supports these problems. and that's what i'm trying to describe in the book how do these cases keep happening over and over again and why these officers are almost never punished. >> but the fact that eric garner they said was as a result of the choke hold and then officers suppressing his ability to breathe on his chest. he complains 11 times, yelled out i can't breathe. was that police harassment? >> i think so, absolutely. among other things because it's almost a fact that he wasn't selling cigarettes that day. now, eric garner was -- >> yeah, he was arrested. >> he was arrested.
and that is what he did for a living, he sold untaxed cigarettes, but i talked to over probably 25 people who were there that day. not one of them saw eric garner selling a cigarette. i can tell you minute by minute what he was doing that morning. and i know almost for a fact that he got out of the bathroom, broke up a fight, standing up against a wall catching his breath and then approached by police. he was never selling a cigarette during that time. so that's one of the reasons why the video is so tragic. >> matt taibbi, author of "i can't breathe," powerful book. >> tomorrow, don't miss joy reid's one-on-one interview with house minority leader nancy pelosi at 10:00 a.m. eastern right here on msnbc.